Archive for October, 2011
I wanted to introduce everyone to Jose Antonio Lagunar, who will be making the guitars for Contreras going forward. As you’ll see, Jose Antonio has been working with Contreras Sr. and then with Pablo (Manuel Contreras Jr.) all his life, and is clearly the right person to be making guitars under the Contreras name. The new labels read “Guitarras Manuel Contreras – Luthier J. Antonio Lagunar” and everything is done with the approval of the Contreras family. As you can see in the photos, Jose Antonio has all of the original Contreras plantillas and soleras, as well as their stock of wood.
Eva Beneke came back to play some guitars, and as it turned out they were both spruce tops made by German masters – a 1952 Hermann Hauser I (one of the very last guitars he ever made – you can read about it here) and a 2000 Edmund Blochinger. On the Hauser she played a traditional German Chistmas song called ‘Es ist ein Ros´entsprungen’ and on the Blochinger she played the introduction to Giuliani’s ‘Rossiniana.’
The folks at CMG, the US ditributor for Ramirez, are giving away a trip to Spain including airfare from the US, 4 nights in Madrid and a tour of the Ramirez shop. Just go here to sign up and they announce the winners in January 2012. You have until the end of the year to sign up, but you know you’re going to forget, so just go sign up now.
In my previous post I mentioned a story about Torres on his deathbed, and while I had heard the story from various luthiers, Sebastian Stenzel was good enough (and informed enough) to point me to the actual quote and its source. (The photo is of Sebastian using his thumbs and forefingers in the way Torres was describing).
[...] Once I asked him [Torres] what was the basis for the sonority of his guitars and he replied: only in the soundboard, for the condition of the wood, the working of it and its form were the secret of the sonority. [...]
[...] and after the meal the subject of the guitar was raised. Father Garzon, victim of the opinion that was going around at that time, had to ask him:”Don Antonio, you ought not go to your grave without leaving to posterity, without revealing the secret of your guitars” and looking at us, smilingly [Torres] responded: “Father, I am very sorry that a man like you also falls victim of that idea that runs among ignorant people. Juanito” (that is how he addressed me) “has been witness to the secret many times, but it is impossible for me to leave the secret behind for posterity; this will go to the tomb with me for it is the result of the feel of the tips of the thumb and forefinger communicating to my intellect whether the soundboard is properly worked out to correspond with the guitar maker’s concept and sound required of the instrument.’ [...]
Juan Martínez Sirvent quoting Torres in a letter, published in an edited version in “Tarrega” by Emilio Pujol. Translation by José L. Romanillos in his book “Antonio de Torres, Guitar Maker – His Life and Work”
There’s a story (no idea if it’s true) that when Antonio de Torres was on his deathbed someone said to him “you can’t die without telling us your secrets” and he sort of rubbed his thumb and forefinger together and said “the secret is here”, the point being that feeling the wood between those two fingers and knowing which wood was right was the whole ‘secret’ of making great guitars. Looking through the videos I shot with luthiers in Spain a few weeks ago I started to notice that everyone is talking about resins and crystallization and the ‘secret’ of choosing good wood.
So I put together a few clips of those conversations, because I love how these guys make guitars day in day out, have huge stocks of wood, and yet they just obsess about it. Here are Teodoro Perez and Graciliano Perez talking about their obsession.
Tobias Berg just sent us these photos of a guitar that will ship to GSI next week. It’s Indian rosewood back and sides, and it’s the first cedar-top from Tobias with double sides. Tobias and I emailed back and forth about this a while back and you can read a very short interview about it here.
I love watching Teodoro Perez work. Partly, because he can’t help it. He’ll stop to talk and his hands just sort of wander over to some job that needs doing and do it. Looking over the videos I shot with him I realized that in the 10 or so minutes we were talking about something or other he had completed the binding on another guitar. I figured most people wouldn’t spend 10 minutes watching this, so I sped up the video and now it’s just 3 minutes long. Music is Marc Teicholz playing ‘Esmeralda’s Waltz’ by Dusan Bogdanovich.
We just got some photos from luthier Sebastian Stenzel of the guitar he is currently working on for us. This one will be a cedar-top with ziricote back and sides. Here’s what Sebastian had to say about the photos and the woods:
This particular piece of cedar comes from a tree that died in a fire in the 1930s. The trunk has been standing upright in the forrest until several years ago. It is the best cedar not only that I have worked with, but that I have ever seen. I have – unfortunately – only 10 soundboards from this tree.
- The two halves of the soundboard are prepared to be joined.
- The channel for the rosette is being cut.
- The rosette is inlayed and the outside surface is cleaned.
- When the outside is finished, the soundboard is worked to the right thickness, which varies within a range of a few tenths of a millimeter. At this point many of the properties of the guitar sound are determined.
As always, just click on the photos to see them bigger.
We’re very happy to have a date for our next concert in the Santa Monica showroom - on January 29, 2012, we’ll be hosting Marc Teicholz in what we’re calling ‘Valseana Live.‘ (Valseana is the CD we produced with Marc of 18 waltzes played on 18 different historic or otherwise important guitars.) Since it’s been a few years, neither the guitars nor the repertoire will be exactly the same as on the CD, but Marc’s an astonishingly good player (he won the GFA competition in 1989 and teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory) and we are rounding up some of those guitars that you rarely get a chance to hear played. And I should add that the acoustics in our showroom are amazing, so the combination of amazing player in an amazing room playing amazing guitars will be a very unique event. Seating is limited to 80, so get your tickets now before we run out.